Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Being a Fart.

I keep saying to June, whenever I've forgotten something, or taken the keys to the grilles home with me, or misplaced the supervisor card for the chip and pin, not got around to packing up the internet orders by the time she's got here, boiled the kettle with no water in... :

'When did I turn into such a tit?'.

Just recently, I seem to be having a permanent brain fart. So far I've managed to keep it solely to less important areas of life but, I'm afraid to say, it appears to have spread to the knitting and crochet. Case in point:

King Cole Pattern number 3541

I was doing the cardi on the back of the pattern for the model in the shop to test out how it might fit on me - it's a lovely pattern you see - but I made it in the gorgeous Patons 100% Cotton DK because I wanted to do something in that yarn which I love so much but has had some bad karma for me - you know how you get a yarn and nothing seems to go right. I've just realised, maybe it's bad karma all around because just you wait and see what I've done...

You know shoulders? Like we all have? Yeah... I forgot about them...

Between the red arrows is where the shoulder should have attached to the back between the purple arrows:

As I was sewing up I knew something was wrong. It was too much effort to ease the arm into the correct position. I'm not one of these people that gets in a hissy fit about easing arms in - nothing special, no pins, just a steely determination that I can count rows or measure inches and I can trust a pattern designer (or my own brain if I've had to make alterations) to make an arm that fits properly. Can you see the fuss I made?

That's not a neat armhole... 

You have thought I'd have noticed how wide the neckline was - apparently not:

The red and purple arrows refer to where the shoulder should have been sewn. The green arrow refers to the fact that I apparently used a 4.5mm needle when I should have used a 3.25mm (the buttons I added just because I wanted to see what it would look like).

And that, dear readers, if my essay on being a fart. It's not as if I have anything better to do than ripping out silly, stupid mistakes. I did it at the bus stop this morning, in the rain. It was that pathetic fallacy that that my English teach used to tell us about.

In other news the Carphone Warehouse has allowed somebody £500 worth of credit on an address that isn't an actual address but does include our business name. They've taken seven months so far and it isn't even sorted. To say I'm mad is an understatement. All they need to do is google our business name to see that we aren't at that address and this would take 30 seconds rather than the 30 days that the fraud team are going to take to investigate it. What sort of investigating are they bloody doing!? Anyway, the police don't want to know - apparently it's the Carphone Warehouse who have been defrauded. I feel for them, I really do. It's so hard when somebody you've allowed to take out credit on an address that doesn't even exist doesn't pay. It's not what you think will happen, is it? Poor, trusting, lacking-any-sort-of-financial-checks Carphone Warehouse. Poor poor them.

Maybe we should lay a siege to their shop with our pointy sticks.

Right, I'm off,

Love Eleanor.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Patons Shock Eleanor to the Core.

Blimey. There's a pattern in the shop that has blown my mind. It's a Patons booklet. Of all things.

I can't quite get my head around the fact that a British, printed pattern booklet might have charts, circular knitting, be worked in 4ply and have lace where the stitch count varies row to row. All in one go! I might be blind but I've been obsessive about knitting for quite a while and I've genuinely never seen it before. When I ordered the booklet, I knew it wasn't beginner's lace - in fact that's why I ordered it but I had no idea. It's left me grinning from ear to ear and a strong suspicion that I won't be able to hold off casting on much longer. I'm in love love love love love love LOVE with the Circular Wrap Jacket:

Oh what a pattern! And maybe if I knit it, I'll get hair like hers? It's worth a try surely...

Anyway, that pattern in particular caught my eye. I wouldn't pick it up in a shop, the sleeves and length are wrong for me but I've been dreaming about how to alter it to suit me and I think I've found a way. But I do think there would be many ladies that this would suit - somebody with hips in proportion to their bust, somebody slim all the way down or somebody with a larger bust than hips (basically anybody but me...). 

A note of caution - Patons don't seem to cater too well for those of us who can't resist cake and crisps - the largest size here is 42". Bit disappointing but that's life - when will they learn that knitting and biscuits go hand in hand!? The smallest size in the booklet is a 30" chest which I don't think is too bad. One lovely thing about the booklet though is the negative ease on the sizes - they've really thought about how a lot of people like to wear their clothes in summer. 

The other patterns in the book are a bit simpler I think:

The Lace sweater - comfy evening wear perhaps? Or over a swim suit to pop to the bar at the back of the beach... ahhh summer...

Singlet Top. What an uninspiring name (*cough* and colour *cough*). I shouldn't really say that, but imagine it in the lovely Sky colourway with some linen coloured trousers or the Grape colourway with a nice black skirt in the evening. Lovely. 

And finally the Lace Top. I consider this an every day kind of item - something that will take you through summer and if you knit it in a yarn with a high wool content, maybe over a long sleeved T-shirt in the winter.

Haven't we done well ey? I'm going to continue buying these Patons books - I'm dead impressed. I personally like something to get my teeth into. It's been a while since I've done something complicated, my knitting at the moment has to fit into ten minutes here and there so anything longer than a four row repeat is a no no. 

Which leads me on to my lesson on Sunday: we're hosting the Lace Knitting for Summer Workshop. The idea is, as with all of our lace lessons, you'll come out with all of the stitches you'll need to work lace including some Estonian stitches which are all the rage at the moment. We'll look at how to read written patterns and charted and we'll hopefully learn how to identify and rectify mistakes in lace knitting. The biggest difference between this lesson and the normal lace lessons is that we'll be putting this in the context of garments. It's one of the biggest problems that I see my customers having in the shop - how to shape the shoulders, or the armscyes of their garments - so we'll go through it with a bit of a practice. The workshop includes a King Cole pattern of your choice. I suppose that doesn't have to be a lace pattern but if it is then we'll try our best to read through it to see that, at least until you walk out the door, you're confident enough to tackle it. You'll also get a couple of balls of the scrumptious Bamboo Cotton DK - and you can't go far wrong with that!

So, to sum up: 

Get scared to death. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to tell you that despite me teaching complicated things like lace work, cables and finishing, apparently, I can't actually read a pattern... 

Love Eleanor. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Surprisingly Magical

When this pattern came into the shop, I couldn't wait to cast on, so I bought a ball of King Cole Riot DK in the Bling colourway and got going. Two days later I was finished and couldn't wait to cast on another one - which is unusual for me as I rarely knit the same pattern more than once, and certainly not straight away.

For the next one I chose Ebony King Cole Moorland Aran. I was addicted! As I hadn't sewn the shoulder on the first one, I put the two together in a little pile, then cast on a third in King Cole Riot Chunky in the yummy Moors colour, then used up some stash sock yarn to make a fourth. Here they are, unseamed in a pile.

Aren't they cute? Of course, I then had to seam them all. And this is what they looked like

And all in a row

Hanging up

And a roly poly of magic

All of them have the same number of stitches and rows. Its magic! Although, when you knit this I recommend writing down the row numbers with the number of stitches to the increase (or decrease) point, then the number of stitches to the next one, it just makes life a little easier.

Of course, all four of them have been given away as gifts, but I can assure you, this will be my "go to" pattern for all babies and toddlers from now on. I wonder if King Cole are going to bring out an adult version.

June x

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Two thoughts.

I can't make this into a proper review or a proper blog because I don't have the time! Busy busy! But I have two thoughts about the latest Knit Now magazine...

First thing, they've done a feature on up and coming designers and the journalist has called a hat which is clearly some kind of rib a 'stockinette hat'. Hmm. Firstly, it's bloody rib! Secondly, we're not in America - what's wrong with 'stocking stitch'? It just adds one more syllable - like when people use big words when they could use little ones or lots of words when they could use two... Blurgh. 

Secondly, I found the nicest quote ever about knitting. They asked Ruth and Belinda from what is is about knitting that really gets them going and Ruth said: 

'The immediacy of turning my ideas into a thing.'

Succinct, ey? I get it. 

Love Eleanor. :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Commission Knitting How To

Lately I've been reading all sorts of sites telling me how to run this blog. They're telling me about the 'new media' - customers don't just want to be sold to, they want information, communication and a community. I get it. I don't think we sell too much here, obviously, when we've got a new yarn in I try and give some info but I see this place as a sort of diary for the shop so you'll see a bit of what each of us is doing, what inspires us, what we're excited about - because, essentially, we are the shop.

But I am aware that there hasn't been much 'knowledge-giving'. Hmm. I think it's probably because of the state of my camera... It's really hard to take photos of what you're doing when you only have a temperamental phone camera to work with and nobody's around to help at the times when you're free. Also, maybe more importantly, I don't see myself as any kind of an expert. My knitting/crochet style is very much 'fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants' and anybody who's been on my lessons knows that I don't believe there's a right and a wrong way to do anything. Waving sticks and string around in any fashion is all good with me as long as you're coming out with something that you love. Any sort of 'how-to' takes an incredible amount of time too and I have a lot on with the shop. I've started taking notes of what I'm doing on a day to day basis and we're two hours in and I've already done ten things including knitting for an hour on a commission. Not much time to spare.

What I can talk about with some authority is knitting/crocheting to a deadline. I've been doing it for years, starting when I was about 18 to make some money for booze while I was a student and now to make some money for the shop/my holiday(!!!). I'm on a constant crafting deadline and as I was finishing something up yesterday (my day off) I realised that I've developed ways of coping so I thought I'd share them with you.

Project Choice and Pricing

There's nothing that kills a project buzz quicker than knowing I've undercharged for an item.

Case in point: I had a phone call on Saturday from a lovely woman who was struggling with a couple of lacy baby bits. The baby had arrived two weeks early on the Saturday morning and she'd decided that she just wanted them done. She also told me she was in her nineties and if you don't already know then you do now that I love old people and would do anything to make their lives a bit easier. So I said yes and charged £10 for each cardi (usually I'd add the cost of the yarn on too but she'd already got that). For me, £10 is a reasonable price for a newborn size, you'll not make minimum wage doing knitting or crochet, and a day's work in front of the TV/my favourite blog/at the pub isn't too hard a life. But when the cardis turned up they were both 4ply and the reason she was struggling was all of the errors in the patten... Bit of a nightmare but I'll stick with my prices on this one and get it done for that lovely old lady.

I suggest that you stick to some sort of pricing guideline you set yourself. Not everything's going to fit into that of course but you can have a basic idea. A lot of people in America seem to charge three times the cost of the yarn but this makes no sense to me - is an aran cardi in Cygnet Aran any less work than one in British Wool Aran? I tend to start at around £70 + the cost of the yarn for a basic cardi/jumper in DK/aran for an adult up to around 34-36" chest. I'll add around £5 per 2" chest and around £10 for any fancy stitches like lace or cables and I might even add £20 if it's a particular brain-boggler. I'll add roughly £20/£25 for design work and maybe up to £30-£40 if I start from scratch with the design.

The costs soon start to add up you'll see and often this is just too expensive for people. I have enough work on with commissions that I'm at the 'take it or leave it' stage but occasionally I'll give a bit of a discount. I do have a favourite commission customer called Sheila who I've done tonnes of stuff for- she used to be a knitter herself but can't now because of a bad arm. She is so appreciative and understanding and she makes a mean Jamaican Christmas cake (blows your socks off!) so I'll do a deal for her just to keep her around.

In terms of project choice - I suppose you don't get much of a choice - but I would be honest with the customer, don't use this as an opportunity to learn a new technique, not when somebody else is paying for it and it could all go tits up. If the customer wants something that you can't do, how about saying something like 'well, I haven't done that before, it's something that I want to learn though so give me a week or two and I'll see if I'm any good and I'll get back to you'. Most people are understanding but don't bet your life on them coming back, there are a lot of people who will knit/crochet for money and they might well have found one of them.

Set a Reasonable Deadline

You know how fast you work. You know if you're covering somebody's holiday next week. You know your Mum's going into hospital tomorrow. Life happens and customers do understand but if you can keep a timetable of events that are going to slow you down then you'll be able to give a reasonable estimate. Right now I'm telling customers about my holiday and the fact that I have at least four other things in the commission queue so if they need this doing then they'll need to find another knitter.

Don't underestimate the craft Gods. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how much you actually do, the inches just aren't adding on - ever get that feeling? Yeah, it happens to commission knitting too... Give yourself at least a few days to fall back on.

Case in Point: I'm also in the middle of knitting a lacy cardigan/wrap for a lovely lady. Essentially it's a scarf with arms based on a lovely cardi that she picked up in a sale from a dead posh shop that she's worn to death. I made the lace pattern up myself and somehow I thought it would be a brilliant idea to do lace on both sides rather than just the knit. Hmm. I also didn't realise that the scarf is 73" in length - somehow it looks shorter because it's all in proportion. I estimated about two weeks, and it's about that time now and I still have a sleeve to do after she's come to check the first sleeve is right. Luckily, she's lovely and understanding and just excited to be getting 'her' cardigan back again. But I seriously underestimated this knit, given all the lessons I've had to prepare for and teach (I think somehow, I thought that the time travelling to and from Clumber Park would magically make up for all of the time I spent there and preparing for it - it didn't).

Don't forget time for finishing - particularly blocking. I use the spare bed and if we have visitors it can mean an extra week on top of the work.

Time for Yourself

I'm guilty of not getting enough knitting time for myself. I suppose that's because my commission go some way to paying the rent for the shop or making sure our phone line isn't cut off. I take more or less what I can get unless I really can't fit it in and sometimes that means I can be knitting all day every day and not knit for myself for weeks and weeks. You'll go mad is this happens to you so how about setting aside either a day a week or an hour a day where you knit or crochet something for yourself (or at least a present for a loved one). Trust me, if it gets busy, you'll need it.

You also probably want to set some time aside for not knitting or crochet - though I'm not sure I can even comprehend such a concept...

One trick I do, if I'm really struggling with a boring thing that I would never knit for myself in a million years, is to mix it up with something of mine. So I might do half an hour of the commission for ten minutes of something of mine or 10 rows of a commission for four of mine. If I'm overwhelmed with stuff to do I might also do two rows of a commission for 10 minutes of doing chores. It's not as exciting but stuff does get done that way.

Get it Written Down

Another one I'm guilty of - the majority of my commissions are done through a verbal contract. The lawyer in me wants to tell you that this is no less of a contract than a written one but perhaps a little more difficult to prove if it gets to a scary stage. I can't see many craft commissions at this level getting to the stage where anybody sues anybody but it's definitely best to get the details down.

Case in point: Sometime last year a woman asked me to knit a brown cardigan for her sister. I duly knitted it and it turned out that when she said 'brown' what she actually meant was 'black'...

At it's simplest, you'll need your customer's name, address and telephone number, a description of the garment to be worked and what materials you will use and a break down of the costing (whether you've decided to charge an hourly rate, flat rate or perhaps per yard worked), a date for completion or a written agreement if there's no particular deadline and a signature from both of you. You should be able to work up a little form pretty easily.

Customers do appreciate a card or something with your contact details on so that they can contact you too.

Forms like these are a good record for the tax man too...


Keep a Record of What You've Done

I'll never remember how much work I did last year because it all passed in a haze of opening the shop and readjusting my life because of it. I took no photos, I made no notes. I'd estimate that I knitted probably 10-12 adult sized jumpers and maybe 20 baby bits but I'll never know. Isn't that sad?

Ravelry is great for this and I suggest, if you can afford it, buy a good camera. If you can't afford it buy a shit camera. But keep a tally of what you've been up to - it could be the basis of a blog, a portfolio, a book. Who knows?!

So my top tips for commission knitting are:

  • Pick the project and the price carefully. 
  • Set a reasonable deadline. 
  • Make time for yourself. 
  • Write down all agreements. 
  • Keep a visual record of what you've been up to. 

If you follow everything on this list then you're doing better than I am but you might also have a smoother journey into knitting for work than I did...

Love Eleanor. :)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Clumber Park Adventures

I know you'll have been expecting this but - frankly - this week has been a nightmare! I've been waking up late, trying to finish a commission that should have taken no time at all and has taken at least two months (and two bloody dye lots), we've been busy in the shop (hurrah!) and I've forgotten either my camera or my card reader every day apart from today. But I am here! And I've just finished that. bloody. cardi. So I'm taking some time out with a cup of tea and a yoghurt to tell you about my fabulous weekend. :)

It started a couple of months ago when, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from Charlotte at Clumber Park asking if teaching knitting lessons outside of the shop would be something I might do. I stayed cool - you know me - 'yeah...maybe...'. Not really, I let rip a bit about how exciting it would be to work with the National Trust (I've explained that a bit more in this post). Anyway, we agreed a price and a time and days, she sent me the poster through to print out and all was well! Apart from (come on, this is my life, there has to be a 'but'), Clumber Park's phoneline was down for around a week which meant that loads of people who were wanting to book couldn't get through and when they were contacting me, I couldn't get through. Argh! Frustrating! But this is life and I'm trying to be a bit more zen.

Anyway - I spent the few days running up to the lessons frantically trying to design little sheep to knit and crochet that were easy but taught everything that I believe should be taught in a £35 lesson (that's not cheap!). I thought - cast on, cast off, knit, purl, increase, decrease and sewing up/in for the knitting and chain, double crochet, half treble, treble, increase, decrease and sewing up/in for the crochet. I knew it would be tough but I timed myself making the things and they were each less than an hour for me to make so I crossed my fingers.

On the day before the first lesson, Saturday, I printed off the leaflets and packed my little bag full of all the bits I needed (I even wrote a list I was that organised!). As I was about to leave I noticed how lovely the bags of stuffing looked:

Oooh, lovely bright colours. Colours that attracted my nephew's attention quite a lot when they were hanging about in the hall way...

I also, took a photo of my bag of bits. Everything that I needed was in there - I'm surprised how light I can travel when I really try!

Right, so I cornered my mum and dad into taking me there, I'm not sure I would have been able to go had I not been able to persuade them but don't worry, I'm paying them. They decided that since the weather was going to be lovely, they'd take the nephew for his first day out at a National Trust property. So here he is all tucked up in the car seat:

Naturally, ducky had to come too.

This was out first glance of the wonderful park. A quick shot over the bridge towards the river. I'm dead proud of this photo considering it was in a moving car and I was keeping the little one from stealing my camera. Doesn't look sunny though, does it? It was. 

We were a bit late, stuck behind a red lorry (cue lots of 'red lorry, yellow lorry') and when we got there it was a bit disorganised and rushed - entirely my own fault. We were in a back room - in the annals of the main buildings and it was lovely! Because it was so rushed the only thing I could use to remember how to get back was this hideous thing:

Urgh! I'm sure some people would find it beautiful but I certainly didn't...

From there you had to find the forest doors:

They were something truly spectacular! Photos from the actual grounds made into doors! 

After that it was fairly straight forward:

You went past the beautiful range,

with the cute mushroom mosaic on top and you were there. Apparently I didn't get any photos of the actual room - I promise it was lovely. 

On the first day I had two students (we suffered from the phones being down... disappointing ey). They were a lovely couple (I assume) but it turned out that they actually wanted to crochet rather than knit so I got our of my knitting state of mind and hopped over the my crochet one. I'd psyched myself up and everything but I probably love both crafts equally now so it's not problem. On an unrelated note, the lad told me that he was a disposable lighter repair man and I believed him...

It was a strong start, we came apart a bit working double crochets into the first chain, but I did a few rows here and there to sort out the stitch count and this is where we were at the half way point - I always love it when students are as messy as me!


And this was the end result:

For the very first time either of them had crocheted I was pretty impressed - even if the middle sheep looks more like a sheep dog... :)

I was a bit flustered at lunch time and afterwards, the baby being there and all so I didn't do much else. Just ate my lunch quickly and got back to where I needed to be. I took a lot of pictures of birds, or I tried to - I won't bore you with the (non)results. I spent some more time the next day farting about and getting to know the place. 

This is the back entrance to where we were:

Now, I know that you're thinking it's not as beautiful as the shop, but I was pretty impressed...

At lunch time on the second day I went to see the spinners. Sue had told me that there was a burger bar there which was my main reason but she'd also taken this fantastic picture of two of the lambs that were born and I thought I might see this little man:

Isn't that beautiful??

I didn't - with my terrible phone camera I got this:

Can you spot him?

I did however catch these little cuties!!!

Aren't they adorable!? They belong to one of our fabulous customers who has been very kind to me this week. Thank you Steve!

I saw spinners and spinning too:

Apparently, there was a rain drop on my camera that's blurred some photos beautifully, how I didn't realise at the time is a mystery to me...

But there wasn't a bloody burger van so I had to make my way to the cafe to buy some crispies. On the way back I saw this puddle:

And resisted the urge to jump in it because I am a grown up now and I am working for the National Trust. 

This is the produce from the second day - the day I was supposed to be doing crochet so I was in the mindset. I had three lovely ladies on the lesson - one was expecting, so I wish her good luck. The other two was an aunty/niece combination and it was great to see the good relationship they had, maybe one day I'll have that with stinkbag. 

Apart from that I have a very miserable looking but beautiful mosaic because this is killing somebody's bandwidth (I'm not geeky enough to know whether it's your or mine - maybe it's both!). 

And with that, I'm going to go home. I was here until at least half eight last night sorting out our new chip and pin. I'm hoping that it will make things a bit cheaper for everybody but I'm going to work that out when I get my first invoice from them. I do not know how I will get through flipping over the internet site onto the new payment system. No idea. I also have a-whole-nother commission to do that I want done by tomorrow... Only another 20 inches in 4ply and then two sleeves... 

I'm going to keep looking back at this blog post to remind me that sometimes it really is fantastic owning your own company and doing what you love. A big thank you to Clumber Park for having me and for the students who were all wonderful. 

Love Eleanor. :)

Friday, 6 April 2012

I'm getting a bit of a kick...

...out of knitting Bamboo Cotton with bamboo needles. Yes, I know I'm a little odd....

I think I'm also a little giddy because I've actually got around to casting on one of my holiday projects that I told you about last month. It's taken too long to cast on really but I've had stuff to do... Anyway, pub knits last night was a brilliant time to start a boring stocking stitch thing and I'm about 7 ish inches up the back/front (I haven't read the pattern but I'm betting they're exactly the same).

And yes, you did hear right, we are now stocking bamboo needles! It's been something we've wanted to do for a while but I've never been sure of the quality of cheaper bamboo needles and I will never sell something I wouldn't work with myself. But, some time last week, I had to make a minimum up on an order so I thought I'd chuck a few of the most popular sizes in to see how it goes and there you go. We now stock bamboo needles! Naturally, I had to test them out, and I desperately wanted to do some knitting for myself so I cast on and my oh my I love them! They're so light. So incredibly light! I knew that of course, I've worked with bamboo needles before, but usually, I just knit with whatever's around so to have needles in my hands which are so damn light feels weird - and amazing. They're also smooth - no snags - which is a nightmare with bamboo needles. I can't comment on the longevity, usually bamboo/wooden needles wear out quicker than metal or plastic, but they feel like they'll last as long as I don't sit on them (which has been the fate of many, many of my Knit Pro needles/DPNs/hooks....). We only got them in yesterday and they're on the bloody internet so they must be exciting!!! Anyway, one last quick link, (trying to get them up the google rankings you see...), Knit Nottingham now stocks bamboo needles!

Whilst I was at it I also, finally, added the Knit Pro Soft Touch Crochet Hooks. I've been a bit reluctant to add these because I haven't been able to get a regular supply. When they were launched, Knit Pro also launched another 20 or so products. Worldwide. At the same time. Just before Christmas. Everybody applaud because that was one BRILLIANT idea... Anyway, a little shop like us, with no buying power was sort of muscled out of the way and I got only what I was given for a long time. But things have settled down now, and I ordered and received five 4mm hooks t'other day without having to argue or plead so I'm betting that the supply will be regular enough for me to put it on the internet so I have - Knit Pro Soft Touch Crochet Hooks. If you haven't tried them - do. They're only 40p more expensive than our regular hooks and they are so, so, so worth it.

While I've been at it, I've also added new colours to the:

Cygnet DK
Cygnet Grousemoor Chunky
Cygnet Aran
Fortissima Sock

And with that, I am going to get on with some knitting - finally!!!

Love Eleanor.

P.s. There is still enough time to book on our National Trust events. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I literally cannot WAIT to cast this on!


Am I ever going to get any bloody work done???

I will knit it whilst listening to this: 

Love Eleanor. :)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012